The high school basketball season looked like a desperation half court shot until last week, when it became a slam dunk.
The metro east’s move to Phase 4 of the state’s Restore Illinois plan on Thursday meant local high school hoops could resume play for the first time since last March, albeit with several COVID precautions in place.
Gibault opened its season at home Monday with a thrilling 41-39 double overtime win over Roxana.
Sophomore Kameron Hanvey, who led Gibault in scoring last season as a freshman at 10 points per game, scored 14 to lead the Hawks. Read more on the game by clicking here.
Up next for the Hawks are games at Metro-East Lutheran on Thursday and Father McGivney on Friday. Gibault hosts Christ Our Rock Lutheran on Monday.
Longtime Hawks head coach Dennis Rueter has just one senior, Ryan Bollinger, on this year’s squad. Other likely starters are juniors Jude Green, Owen Scherff and Ian Bollinger.
Looking to provide depth this season are sophomores Kaden Augustine, Chase Schrader and Daniel Darin, along with freshman Gavin Kesler.
“A number of players have done extensive individual work during the layoff,” Rueter said. “We are very young, but I like our potential.”
A senior-laden Columbia squad hosts Freeburg on Thursday and Salem on Saturday afternoon to open its season.
The Eagles have 11 seniors on their roster: 6-foot-5 forwards Jackson Holmes, Trey Hemminghaus and Isaac Schreckenberg, plus Jonah James, Zach Anderson, Bryson and Greyson Bourisaw, Sam Bonaldi, Bryce Hildebrand, Colin McLaren and Max Woelfel.
“These guys have been playing together as teammates for over 10 years,” Columbia head coach Brooks Demijan said. “It’s hard to find a group of 11 guys who are as loyal to each other as this group. We’re going to rely on all 11 of them heavily for production to pick up from the graduation of seven seniors last season.”
Holmes, the younger brother of past CHS hoops greats Jonathan and Jordan, led the Eagles with 17 points and nearly eight rebounds per game last season.
The Eagles will also expect contributions from junior Glenn Powers and sophomores Jack Steckler, Dominic Voegele and Dylan Murphy.
“I’m most proud of the commitment these guys have shown during tough times over the past year, so whatever obstacles may come our way during this season, I fully anticipate they can find the positives and roll with it,” Demijan said.
Waterloo, with new head coach Scott Spinner at the helm, opens at Althoff this Friday. The Bulldogs went 12-20 last year, dropping their first six and final four contests.
“We are doing our best to build our on-court chemistry in a very short window of time,” he said.
Key returners for the Bulldogs include 6-foot-2 junior Ty Lenhardt (12.4 points per game last season), 6-foot-3 junior Ian Schrader (8.8 ppg) and 6-foot-3 senior Dustin Crawford (8.6 ppg).
Others being counted on for leadership, Spinner said, are seniors Eric Brown, Aaron Eckart and Logan Whitlock.
“We have a number of players that have not had significant varsity experience, but have worked hard over the past eight months and we believe they will make a significant impact on the court,” Spinner said. “Our commitment to defense will ultimately determine our fate this season.”
Valmeyer opens its season at Red Bud on Thursday and hosts Marissa on Saturday afternoon.
The Pirates are led by senior Jacob Rowold, who was tops in scoring last season at 14.1 points per game. He shot 39 percent from three-point range.
Other key returners for Valmeyer include shot blocker Henry Weber and junior Jordan McSchooler.
The Pirates fielded a competitive squad last season before dropping six of their final seven games to finish 12-16.
The new head coach for Dupo this season is Wayman DeClue. The Tigers, who host New Athens Thursday and play at Red Bud Saturday, finished 10-19 last season.
“Even in the face of COVID, our boys are excited to play and up for the challenges ahead,” DeClue said. “I was not sure we would see a single game this year due to COVID, so I am extremely happy for our guys.”
Dupo’s starting five looks to be led by junior point guard Nate Ticer.
“Nate had a good sophomore season and I look for him to continue to improve with each game he plays,” DeClue said.
Seniors Kyle Stansch and Kyle Yancy, junior A.J. Williams and sophomore Freddie McMahon will
round out the starting lineup for the Tigers.
Freshmen Austin Simmons, Ashton Stein, Tommy Williams, Connor Ballard, Trenton Roberts and Terrence Dugan will also see time on the court, the head coach said.
“Our team is small and extremely young, so every member of the team will play a role,” DeClue said.
For a schedule of local basketball action this winter, click here.